AUBURN, Ala. — Avery Young waited more than a year for last Saturday to arrive.
Taking his place as Auburn’s starting right tackle against Western Carolina made Young think back to last season, when he manned the position during the first three games of 2012. Soon after, he suffered a shoulder injury that cut his season short, which allowed Patrick Miller to move into the lineup for the last nine contests of the Tigers’ 3-9 campaign. Once fall camp rolled around, Young was healthy enough to go head-to-head with Miller for the starting job. It didn’t work out in the redshirt freshman’s favor, however, as Miller won the competition and started the first five games of this season.
Saturday was different.
For reasons head coach Gus Malzahn would only deem “off the field things,” Miller was not with the team.
Young didn’t let the opportunity go by the wayside.
“It felt real good to get back out there,” he said. “It’s been a while since the little situation I had when I went down, but it’s getting better. I’m just trying to scrape off the rust spots and trying to help my team.”
It wasn’t a game-time decision that elevated Young back into the starting lineup. He said he was informed he would get the starting nod early in the week, giving him the chance to get acclimated with the first-team offense during every practice leading up to the game.
While thrilled to be labeled as a starter once more, Young said life as a backup hasn’t been as difficult as many may imagine.
“Even when I’m not in there, I’m always paying attention and locked in,” he said. “(I’m) making sure when I get out there and my number is called that I can do (my job).”
Losing the preseason battle to Miller was tough, Young admitted, but it was made easier because of the bond he shares with his fellow Florida native.
“I have nothing against Pat, that’s my brother. We played in the same area back in high school,” Young said. “Whoever is on top, we make sure we’re both doing it and helping each other out. Whoever is playing, then that’s who’s playing. If it’s Pat then I’m looking out for him and making sure he’s doing his job. He’d do the same for me.”
Reese Dismukes was pleased to see Young’s face back with the first-team offensive line — even if he didn’t get to see much of his teammate’s performance while it was happening.
“It was good for him to get out there and play,” the junior center said. “ I didn’t really watch him too much. I was mainly watching myself.”
With Miller’s status still uncertain, Young may find himself back in the starting lineup this Saturday when Auburn faces Texas A&M. Rhett Lashlee didn’t downplay the importance of the snaps Young was able to get against Western Carolina last week. Yes, the second-team offensive line gets its share of reps during practice.
But as Auburn's offensive coordinator pointed out, nothing can simulate a game.
“We really try to make sure our two’s get enough reps because you’re one rep away at every position from those guys having to play,” Lashlee said. “Avery is a very smart guy and really athletic. He’s very athletic, very gifted. To get those reps and get all that new out of the way, I thought it was really good for him.”